The coronavirus pandemic is disrupting just about everything including putting the brakes on the travel and tourism industry. The “staycation” might become prevalent for quite a few months as the economy slowly begins to reopen.
“We are fairly certain it is going to have some type of long-lasting effect on tourism, but we are not sure on how long it’s going to last because of time,” said Chris Barrett, president and CEO of the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau. “It’s definitely going to affect us.”
Barrett said the Pocono Mountain region – Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties — generates $4 billion in economic effect in tourism. It depends almost exclusively on tourism for its survival.
“Overall in 2020, this is going to affect us by about 30 percent,” he said. “That’s our best estimate.”
Barrett said the cities in the state that rely heavily on conventions – Pittsburgh and Philadelphia – have been hardest hit. He said they will be the last to come back when the pandemic is over.
“A destination like ours, we have a feeling that we will be the first to start to feel a comeback because of the pent-up demand,” said Barrett. “There’s a lot of outside activity and you can socially distance naturally.”
He said in some instances, the turnaround will be faster.
“It won’t be a leaps and bounds turnaround. We won’t be at the levels before this happened, but we will be first,” he said.
He said they are looking at a three-month window to ‘really get moving.’
Barrett said over his career, he’s seen several downturns in the economy, but he said this time there’s federal stimulus and that makes him optimistic.
“We are very resilient. Our brand is strong. It’s incredibly strong,” he said. “We’ve survived.”
Jim Verano, owner of Abington Travel in Clarks Summit, said it will be some time before their business returns to normal.
“At this point, our work is limited to trying to reschedule people, rebook and get refunds,” said Verano, owner of the travel agency since 1988. “Nobody is traveling at this point. Everything we have booked in the last three months has been canceled. We are kind of being an advocate for our clients.”
Verano hasn’t tallied up all of the losses just yet, but since business has come to a standstill, the losses mount daily.
“It’s been devastating,” he said. “Everything for the rest of the year is likely canceled and for us that means no business. It’s really a timing issue at this point. Until things settle down, it’s unclear. We still have people scheduled in August or September for trips. It’s unclear as to what the situation is going to be and if they will want to cancel. We aren’t booking new clients.”
Verano said some things may recover quickly within the travel industry – cruises, destination resorts and rural vacations. It may take others a lot longer.
“There are times when cruises get hit with a virus and the industry takes a ding,” said Verano. “The people who like to cruise will continue to cruise. It’s just the timing about when things open back up again and people feel safe to go. No one is going to travel until there’s a feeling of safety.”